Hot on the (w)heels of the Ford Transit Electric, the Transit Connect Taxi drove onto the stage at the Chicago Auto Show today running on compressed natural gas (CNG). The clean-burning utility van – based on the gasoline-powered North American Truck of the Year winner – adds to Ford's taxi fleet options like the Crown Victoria (see: pretty much any taxi in any city in the U.S.) and the Ford Escape Hybrid. The new taxi van can also burn propane (LPG, or liquefied petroleum gas). Of course, regular Transit Connect buyers can also opt for Ford's engine prep package to be able to put the gasoline alternatives into the tank. Like its battery-powered cousin, the Transit Connect Taxi will be in dealerships later this year.
Ford product development vice president Derrick Kuzak said that there is "strong demand" for CNG and LPG vehicles among fleet operators. Kuzak also highlighted the small size of the Transit Connect in an odd way: if all of the taxis in Chicago were replaced with these vans, he said, it would free up approximately four acres. Um, OK. Now, what should we do with these extra acres?
Photos by Drew Phillips, Sebastian Blanco / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
FORD TRANSIT CONNECT TAXI 'ON DUTY'; NEW PEOPLE MOVER RUNS ON GREEN FUELS WITH NEW ENGINE OPTION
- Transit Connect Taxi goes into production and will be available for the 2011 model year
- Transit Connect is built on a dedicated commercial vehicle platform, tested to Ford's toughest truck standards, offers a fuel-efficient 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine and is designed to meet the extreme demands of taxi service
- A new engine prep package allows conversion to efficient, clean-burning compressed natural gas (CNG) or propane (LPG, or liquefied petroleum gas)
- Transit Connect's roomy, easy-to-access interior provides passenger comfort and ample luggage storage space, even after modification to contain CNG/LPG fuel tanks
Making the announcement today at the Chicago Auto Show, Ford also said it will introduce engine prep packages on all Transit Connect models – base and taxi – allowing conversion to efficient, clean-burning compressed natural gas (CNG) or propane (LPG, or liquefied petroleum gas). Both CNG and LPG are popular among taxi operators because of their low cost of ownership.
The roomy, flexible interior of the Transit Connect – the 2010 North American Truck of the Year – is perfectly suited for taxi service and conversion to CNG and LPG. The vehicle's 135 cubic feet of cargo space accommodates a compressed gas tank while leaving ample passenger legroom and cargo capacity.
"While meeting with taxi operators in cities throughout the U.S., we found considerable interest for vehicles that run on alternative fuels," said Mark Fields, Ford's president of The Americas. "The Transit Connect Taxi, combined with an engine modified by Ford to use CNG/LPG, is designed to meet that need. This marks a new era in 'green' transit."
To further serve taxi operators, Ford will provide required calibration specifications for the CNG or LPG conversion. By properly following Ford's specifications, the conversion can be completed without voiding the engine's warranty.
The alternative fuel advantage
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, CNG is less expensive and burns cleaner than gasoline, resulting in 30 percent to 40 percent less greenhouse gas emissions. Propane also burns cleaner than gasoline.
"Compressed natural gas and propane offer more than sufficient power for vehicles because they are high-energy fuels," said Rob Stevens, Transit Connect chief engineer. "Another natural benefit for these fuels is they provide an overall lower emission of greenhouse gases compared to gasoline. Additionally, operating on CNG or LPG provides the operators lower fuel/operating costs for their fleet."
Furthermore, nearly 87 percent of natural gas used in the United States is domestically produced. There also are government tax credit incentives for fleets to convert to alternative fuels.
Since October 2009, CNG prep packages have been available on E-Series vans with 5.4-liter and 6.8-liter gas engines.
A conversion-ready interior
The Transit Connect Taxi offers an outstanding interior package for people and cargo. With its open architecture, the taxi provides excellent interior headroom and passenger visibility. The vehicle's rear seat has been moved back three inches to maximize passenger comfort. Plus, with 6.5 inches of ground clearance, passengers step easily through the dual sliding doors. Additional climate control ventilation has been added for rear seat passengers.
The Transit Connect Taxi also features a wiring upfit package with a hole in the roof for signage, vinyl front and rear seats, rubber rear floor, sliding second-row windows and standard third-row windows – all of which are factory installed. Additional installation of technology and other taxi modifications such as roof signage and the optional seating partition are handled by taxi upfitters in local markets.
The vehicle's cargo area easily accommodates compressed natural gas tanks directly behind the second-row seat, still allowing ample luggage storage.
Technology on the go
Ford is collaborating with Creative Mobile Technologies, LLC (CMT), to integrate premier payment processing and passenger information technologies in the Transit Connect Taxi.
Ford and CMT also are developing strategies for potential integration of Ford Work Solutions, a suite of productivity technologies for business owners providing a wireless in-dash computer with full high-speed Internet access and navigation.
Evidence of how this technology could work in the future is included in the Transit Connect Taxi. It also features an 8.4-inch electronic infotainment and navigation screen that shows cab fare, news, weather, sports scores and stock ticker. With the touch screen, passengers also can select their choice of programming, follow the taxi's journey on a map, or scroll through a list of points of interest along the route – including restaurants, museums and shops.
"Ford has demonstrated a significant commitment to support the taxi industry with not only a dedicated product but also with the commitment to work with the technology companies that support the industry," said Jason Poliner, chief operating officer, CMT. "Ford understands that the taxi business is not just the vehicle but a complete technological solution."
Once at the destination, the screen displays the fare with options to pay via cash, credit or debit. Cardholders can swipe their card, select a pre-calculated tip recommendation or utilize the touch screen to enter a tip amount, and complete the transaction right from their seat.
Building on taxi leadership
The "green" taxi isn't new at Ford, which has been a leader in the taxi business for decades. Ford was the first manufacturer to introduce gas-electric hybrid-powered taxis into North American fleets with the launch of the Ford Escape Hybrid in San Francisco and New York City in early 2005.
Built on a dedicated commercial vehicle platform and tested to Ford tough truck standards, the Transit Connect Taxi – including gasoline-powered versions and those modified to operate on CNG/LPG – is designed to meet the extreme demands of taxi service.
With its standard 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission, the conventionally powered Transit Connect is expected to deliver an estimated 30 percent improvement in fuel economy over many of today's traditional taxis.
"Transit Connect already has proven that it offers tremendous versatility for commercial fleet use," said Gerry Koss, Ford fleet marketing manager. "The Transit Connect taxi, combined with the capability for CNG/LPG conversion, further demonstrates its flexibility."
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 198,000 employees and about 90 plants worldwide, the company' s automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit www.ford.com.